It's tough to imagine what Cha Seung Baek will look like once he really does get an audition. Perhaps he'll don a cape and try to make the...

Share story

It’s tough to imagine what Cha Seung Baek will look like once he really does get an audition.

Perhaps he’ll don a cape and try to make the cut for the next “Superman” sequel. Or head to Broadway for a rendition of “King Lear.” No telling what he’d do with a trumpet at the local symphony, though the Mariners will be happy if he simply sticks to throwing a baseball.

That would be the same Mariners squad insisting Baek, who held the Texas Rangers to four hits over seven scoreless innings in a 7-2 win Friday night, isn’t really auditioning for a spot in their 2007 rotation.

Someone forgot to tell Baek, who keeps getting better every time out. His third straight victory since being recalled from Class AAA Tacoma on Aug. 22 was all but secured after Kenji Johjima snapped a scoreless tie in the fifth with a three-run homer off Rangers ace Kevin Millwood.

The way Baek was pitching to that point, the 28,646 fans at Safeco Field could have gotten a head start on the traffic home. Richie Sexson got that exodus going in the eighth by connecting for a grand slam to straightaway center off Rangers reliever Rick Bauer to break open a 3-0 game.

Sexson’s 14th career slam was also his fifth this season, a Seattle franchise record.

Carlos Lee finally got Texas on the board in the ninth with a two-run single off Mariners reliever Joel Pineiro. But it was far too late for a Rangers squad tied in knots by Baek for most of the night.


Texas at Mariners, 6:05 p.m., Ch. 11

Baek allowed two singles over the first five innings, throwing just 60 pitches along the way. He retired 10 in a row before a two-out single by Michael Young in the sixth.

Lee led off the seventh with a single, but Baek escaped the inning by getting Mark DeRosa to hit into a 5-4-3 double play.

The twin killing enabled Baek to surpass his season high for innings pitched. It also allowed him to continue a trend in which each start has seen him allow one fewer run than his previous outing.

It all bodes well for the 26-year-old, with just nine major-league starts since 2004, as he looks to become a permanent fixture in the rotation. Though the team remains coy about any supposed competition for 2007 — either out of respect for pitchers already here or to keep added pressure off the South Korean — the only secured rotation spots appear to be those held by Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn.

Not a bad opportunity for someone now 3-0 with a 2.22 earned-run average in an audition that isn’t really happening. That this 93-pitch effort came against a Rangers squad hitting .292 with 15 homers over its past nine games should also give Seattle’s brain trust something to ponder.

The key to any outing for Baek is to maintain his focus and avoid throwing too many pitches early. Baek did just that in allowing just a single over the two opening frames and throwing a respectable 32 pitches.

He then threw just 11 pitches in the third inning, nine in the fourth and only eight more in the fifth. By the time the top of the fifth ended, he had retired eight straight hitters and bought his own bats some needed time to figure out his mound opponent.

Millwood entered the night 4-1 with a 3.47 ERA his last five starts and didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings.

That changed in the fifth as Sexson and Ben Broussard opened with singles. Johjima stepped in after that and blasted Millwood’s first pitch well beyond the fence in left field to give Baek all the breathing room he needed.

Geoff Baker: